Signal CEO: ‘AI Is a Surveillance Technology’

Signal CEO Meredith Whittaker doesn't mince words about AI and privacy, saying the tech "is a surveillance technology."...
Signal CEO: ‘AI Is a Surveillance Technology’
Written by Staff
  • Signal CEO Meredith Whittaker doesn’t mince words about AI and privacy, saying the tech “is a surveillance technology.”

    In an interview with TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey, Whittaker outlined her concerns regarding AI and privacy (lightly edited by TechCrunch for clarity):

    “It requires the surveillance business model; it’s an exacerbation of what we’ve seen since the late ’90s and the development of surveillance advertising. AI is a way, I think, to entrench and expand the surveillance business model,” she said. “The Venn diagram is a circle.”

    “And the use of AI is also surveillant, right?” she continued. “You know, you walk past a facial recognition camera that’s instrumented with pseudo-scientific emotion recognition, and it produces data about you, right or wrong, that says ‘you are happy, you are sad, you have a bad character, you’re a liar, whatever.’ These are ultimately surveillance systems that are being marketed to those who have power over us generally: our employers, governments, border control, etc., to make determinations and predictions that will shape our access to resources and opportunities.”

    “There’s no way to make these systems without human labor at the level of informing the ground truth of the data — reinforcement learning with human feedback, which again is just kind of tech-washing precarious human labor. It’s thousands and thousands of workers paid very little, though en masse it’s very expensive, and there’s no other way to create these systems, full stop,” she explained. “In some ways what we’re seeing is a kind of Wizard of Oz phenomenon, when we pull back the curtain there’s not that much that’s intelligent.”

    Privacy has become a growing concern in the realm of AI. AI models vacuum up gargantuan quantities of data, often giving people little recourse to reclaim it. AI models have also become a nightmare for some companies, with some of the biggest names in tech accidentally leaking private corporate data and trade secrets via AI chatbots.

    Ultimately, the future of privacy and AI are becoming increasingly intertwined.

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